Start Up – A Delicate Balance
By – Gary Byers
The term “Startup” or “Start-up” has a couple of connotations. It can be used as a noun such as the act of starting something up or setting something in motion. It can also be used as an adjective when relating to the beginning of a new project or venture. Opus-3 or 03Cloud was, and to some degree still is, both of those. It started with an idea to provide a better data center for everyone. Not just the Mega-customer with 30 cabinets and 10Gbps of bandwidth but also for the little-guy with a single 1U server and 3Mbps of bandwidth. It all started in a building that had previously been a boon in the Data Center industry for a large Tier 1 Internet Provider. Even though the makings of a success story were all in place, there were large hurdles to overcome before the first customer would be able to install a single server. Point to remember here is that we started this process in June of 2011, one of the hottest summers on record since the summer of 1980.
One of the first hurdles to overcome was HVAC or the lack thereof. See how that “Hottest summer on record since 1980” comes into play? During the year that the building sat vacant, it became a target of the notorious “Copper bandits”. That’s right, those degenerate individuals that have determined that since no one is in the building, no one will miss it. They generally work in packs and will put a couple of people up on the roof of a building (working all night if needed), to strip every piece of copper out of condensing units and anything else they can pry open. It took our team 45 days from start to finish to get all of the condensing units installed and the copper re-installed. We decided that since the HVAC company was having to re-run and install all of the copper, we would reroute them through the building to gain some efficiency over running them across the roof.
Once we started getting cool air inside the building (we are now into July of 2011 and hotter still), we could focus all our efforts on the Critical Power Systems. This is made up of the Uninterruptable Power Systems (UPS), Automatic Transfer Switch’s (ATS), Power Distribution Units (PDU), and the Generators. The Critical Power System is what supports you and your customers in the event of a power failure by the utility company. Data center customers don’t realize there is a power outage if your critical systems work properly. We had already run tested the generators and had been concentrating on getting the UPS’ re-configured with new batteries and capacitors. Now it was time to load test and commission the UPS’. The ironic thing about this part of a Data Center startup is that it is a brutal test of a delicate system. You are plugging in a series of “load banks” that are built specifically for testing UPS’. They pull a lot of amperage or load and they put off an extreme amount of heat in the process. It really systematically tests your UPS and HVAC at the same time because while you are load-testing your UPS, the HVAC’s are trying to keep up with the heat coming off of these load banks. Then you inflict the ultimate insult to your systems. You go in and just turn off the main utility feed to see if everything remains online. This process has been known to make grown men cry, because every once in a while, a weakness shows itself. One of the backup systems doesn’t like how you are playing and decides to quit in the middle of the test. If you are a startup and this is the initial commissioning test, no harm, no foul, but if you are operational and have customers installed, it’s ulcer time. Believe me, you want to find this out during initial commissioning rather than when you have customers depending on the backup system. So you dig in, start troubleshooting and find the problem, fix it, then start the test all over again. All the while you are sweet-talking your Critical Power Systems and promising that you won’t EVER do this to them again if you can just get through this one test. At least until next year when you are required to do it again.
We started our “Re-purposing and Re-commissioning” in June of 2011 and went live with the first customer in late September 2011. Because the two of us had done these tasks so many times before, we were accustomed to working without supervision and could break the tasks out and work independently managing the contractors and got everything accomplished in a short amount of time. We turned a totally dark data center that hadn’t seen a server in 2 years into a functioning, running, bad-to-the-bone, data center with its first customer in just over 90 days. Our open house was a huge success and we haven’t looked back. We have gone from an Operation running with two guys doing everything from Sales to Operations to an Operations Department complete with Linux specialists and Cisco Certified Professionals. Being in Deep Ellum is invigorating because we love the neighborhood and its people. We find ourselves working 60 – 70 hour weeks so that we can meet the demands of other young start-up companies that have found Deep Ellum a desirable place to begin. They are looking for server storage, colocation, data backup, virtual/cloud environments and craving bandwidth and an alternative to the same old DSL or cable modem. We are able to supply all of these needs and more. With the build-out of our new fiber network, Ellum.Net, we look to be supplying “Bodacious Bandwidth” to our neighbors and friends in Deep Ellum for as long as the need is there.
If you are looking for a data backup company, want to take your server needs to the cloud, or are needing colocation space stop by or give us a call. We look forward to serving you.